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Charlie Martin, Late-Blooming Athlete: Week 4 — Fitness and the Video Revolution

The most bang-for-your-buck gym equipment for a beginner? A smartphone.

David Steinberg


February 25, 2013 - 5:53 am

(See Week One, Week Two, and Week Three. The key passage:

The majority of activities people are accustomed to doing at a gym are neither efficient means of getting fitter nor particularly safe. A typical trainer at a typical gym is now a terrible investment, both for your fitness level and because elite-level training information is freely available online. There is no substitute for an actual qualified trainer at a quality gym, both in instruction and motivation, yet you can do great things for yourself on your own, with a computer. Charlie’s PJ Lifestyle entries strike me as a good opportunity to demonstrate this; he’s agreed to be somewhat of a lab rat.)


In addition to the other contributions that make your daily life more productive, Steve Jobs — and the competitors he dragged with him — inadvertently revolutionized fitness and sports training by jamming a powerful camera into your phone. Those hours you spent as a kid practicing your jumper, your pitching motion, Bobby Brown’s culturally significant dance moves, etc. could have been fantastically more productive had you been able to work with the instant feedback of video.

If familiar with the nascent study of human expertise — most folks aware of it were exposed via Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers; the field is led by scientist K. Anders Ericcson — you may recall the conclusion that an average of “10,000 hours” of “deliberate practice” is generally required to gain such skill in any endeavor. What cheap, available video does: it makes the “immediate feedback” component of deliberate practice profoundly more accessible.

I asked Charlie to send me video of him doing a few reps of what we’ve discussed as the “Core Curriculum” of human movement: the squat, the deadlift, and the press. The point is to see what range of motion he currently has, both in the interest of injury prevention and for discussing the significant advantage that good technique will give you as an athlete. (As taught at a Crossfit Level 1 Trainer Certification, technique equals strength. A correction here and there makes you stronger without additional training.)

Here’s the video. I’ll tell you the basics of what I’m seeing, feel free to weigh in if you notice anything else. Like, say, a cat:

YouTube Preview Image

His deadlift: His lower back is not rounding to compensate for a lack of mobility in the hips, which typically is great — if you are going to get hurt deadlifting, it will probably be from your lower back rounding while under load. But: we can’t quite tell if he does have sufficient hip mobility, because the upper back is compensating quite a bit. Considering Charlie, like everybody, is at a computer all day, he needs to focus on being able to get those shoulder blades back and down so he can get his spine into a strong position. You want that spine nice and straight, tailbone as far as possible from the crown of your head, and you don’t want to lose any of that positioning during the movement.

His (front) squat: Charlie apparently does have pretty limber hips. Any upper body mobility issues aren’t masking anything with this movement. He can get his hips below his knees, which counts as a full squat, without anything horrible happening in his lower back. Also — from the front view, his knees do not buckle inwards towards each other at all, another common fault.

His swing: The swing is pretty close to a deadlift, I would give the same notes as above.

His press: There it is. An efficient press would complete with the arms vertical — Charlie’s arms are leaning forward at the top of the movement. Imagine he’s got 150 pounds up there: he will either start to topple forward, or he will need to work much harder to not do so. When you can’t get your arms vertical, your muscles need to do work that your skeleton is prepared to handle.

To safely and efficiently do the key functional movements of a human body, Charlie should focus his efforts on getting those shoulders freed up. For next week, we’ll look at some strategies for doing that.

David Steinberg is the New York City Editor of PJ Media. Follow his tweets at @DavidSPJM.

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All Comments   (8)
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Charlie's remedial (sorry for previous errors, miss edit feature):
(1) stand with pelvic flat against the wall, heels as far to wall as comfortable
(2) arms hanging at side, chin tucked in, breathing regularly start to bend head down & from the top down progressively, one after another, fold spine vertebrae down
(3) do not bounce, just roll spine from the top downward & you will experience where there is resistance to transition to next lower vertebrae
(4) when fell resistance, anywhere along the entire spine, at a certain spinal folding as try to roll downward pause & let a few breaths come/go naturally, the spinal cord will move inside the spinal bone column
(5) don't obsessively fixate on a spine level, if segue to next folding down forward is not smooth make the transition as body allows
(6) at some point of rolling spine down the ribcage will impair symmetry & sort of skip smooth individual thoracic vertebrae folding to upper lumbar spine - resume individual vertebrae folding & roll down forward as far as spine allows (arms will be hanging down)
(7) when gone down to your limit the next transition is to unroll spine, coming back up progressively until standing upright; always breathing is just done normally
What happens is the back of the pelvis stabilized against the wall anchors the pelvic girdle bones, the bottom sacrum spinal bone is then free to flex & extend as you breathe, the head rolling down with the spine is a weight that fulcrums into the sacrum, (the spinal cord is only fixed to the front of the sacrum & where neck disappears into skull). The spinal cord is then moving inside the length of the spine & neurological signals get to influence where your spine "catches". This deep spinal alteration is something that overlaid muscles to the spine can not provide. After a while it helps spinal ligaments, but of course this is not going to alter radiographic images one sees in scoliosis or disc degeneration. It can help to get more control of symmetrical movement when you engage in exercise & moving weights.
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
Video...0:17 leaning to his right as 1st go to pick up wt...0:19 right pulling up more...0:20 result more rotated forward his left shoulder...0:21 torques left forward...0:54 rotating his right...0:57 his right side rotated more to front...1:00 rising to stand his left shoulder forward shows thorax rotating as leans...1:01 standing erect his right shoulder low & back (less gap between bicep & thorax on his left)...1:03 ready to lift ends up ratcheting to his right while his left shoulder forward; looks like "falls" to his right once thighs leverage back into pelvis...1:04 half way up his left left upper body notably forward & that shoulder higher, his right elbow pulled back, his right leg turned out to his right, head inclining to his right (his right ear lower than left ear)...1:05 smiles as bobble to stabilize self because weight accentuated from lean to his right...1:06 straightened to balance, his right thigh & knee still turned out, has adjusted torso but not lower limb turn out...1:07 his left knee bounces, his left shoulder pulls back...1:09 2nd time coming back down on his right turns out more ...1:10 torso jiggle/pulls back on his left, indicates torque delivered to pelvis not balanced out when went down...1:11 upright sinks to his right, looks like each time goes down pelvis on his right pulled back & propensity for his left shoulder to rotate forward also involves torquing at lumbar spine...1:12 his right knee bobbles...1:22 his right thigh rotation outward probable his norm...1:24 his left shoulder/left thorax forward probably his norm...1:26 start as lift to catch some stabilization...2:01 with 2 weights stabilizing to lift his left torso rotated with his left thorax forward & his right leg turned out...2:03 his right leg outward rotation shows, his left leg bending faster, more knee bent & left ankle more flexed.
propensity is his right shoulder held back & down, his left shoulder up & his left thorax rotated forward, his right leg & left knee turn out .
as thorax did not elongate skeletal development fostered his barrel chest, where the thoracic vertebrae transition to lumbar vertebrae need for balancing the top heavy thorax introduced (or coincided) with compensatory rotation at some level of the lumbar spine; During that growth period his pelvis may not have had sufficient weight to serve as a ballast to barrel chesting thorax.
As his bone growth stopped the rotation ended up being his left thorax more forward, his upper right shoulder rotation back gave him counter balance at top & his lower right leg rotation back gave him counter balance below. This profile could include his right pelvic bone also being rotated back on his right side, that right thigh leveraging into it's hip socket would torque the pelvic side & from below influence the stacking pattern of his spine. Low back/hip pain are probably consequences of the original barrel chest thorax development he experienced.
(Remedial suggestion for Charlie M. in a bit).
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
Charlie M.'r rounding shoulder & pushed forward head on neck could be countered by image awareness. Trying to "hold" back these parts leads to bracing tension.
Decades ago I was instructed to imagine was wearing a cape, which hung across shoulders & down the back. To bring oneself into alignment for a cape to flow it leads to relaxed skeletal elongation.
Under the cape the scapula hang loosely with scapula's lower tips pointing down toward the floor. This avoids the scrunching together across the back of thorax common from just "pulling" shoulders back.
The cape image cover the lower back & over the pelvis. The points of the lower spine, to conform to a smooth cape drop, also then point down toward the floor. And to complete the vector the pelvis bone points we sit on also point down to the floor.
For the head the image is of loosely hanging down from a spot on the center of the crown. The chin tucks down, back of the skull lifts skyward & the base of the skull where it meets the neck drifts back.
Exercise moves everything, but alignment imagery is something to consider because as one repeats a move the mind can give correct postural
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
Shoulder mobility is a problem for me, although I'm *much* better than I was -- it's something I concentrated on in Pilates for some time. (When I started Pilates, my shoulders were so tight I couldn't make my hands meet behind my back, due to the shoulder separation and too many years at a keyboard.) But I also wondr what the effect of greater weight would be -- those are 10lb kettlebells and it's too easy to be sloppy at that weight. They're the only ones I have in pairs however.

That's Kaleo, by the way. Take a bow, Kaleo.
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
Charlie!!! PUT ON SOME SNEAKERS! If you drop one of those weights on your foot you will be so sorry ...
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
That's a 55 lb kettlebell. You think sneakers would really help?
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
Believe it or not, Charlie is right -- most cushy shoes are bad news for lifting, they make you less stable and diffuse the energy of your feet pushing against the ground. Best shoes for lifting would be flat and stable, like Chuck Taylor's.
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
Agreed ! It's very important !

And close the door and keep the cat out ! You absolutely don't want to drop accidentally a weight and ...

I can't even say it.
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
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